For someone who loves TV as much as yours truly, the ATX Television Festival is a dream come true. Not just because it brings so many famous faces to town (and reunites some of my most favorite casts ever), but because it’s a festival that’s truly accessible. While time doesn’t always allow, when it does, panelists are more than happy to snap pics, sign autographs and simply just chat with fans. There’s very little pretension, no VIP status, because everybody is somebody at the ATX Fest.
Full disclosure, I hadn’t been back to the festival since it all began. I was there for seasons 1 and 2, but haven’t been able to work it into my schedule until this year. Not because I didn’t want to attend, but rather, I was too busy making TV in cities on both the West Coast and the East to get back to the ATX each June. Now that I’ve returned to Austin to write full time, it was a no brainer to attend the fest after a five year absence.
As you may know, there have been a lot of changes in Austin over the past five years. I’m happy to report that while this festival has also grown, the experience hasn’t changed.
Some of this year’s “big ticket” screenings and panels included the premiere of HBO’s Sharp Objects with Amy Adams, a discussion of Breaking Bad: Saul’s Origin Story with Bob Odenkirk, a conversation with Ray Liotta, Scott Foley’s new action drama Whiskey Cavalier and a reunion of the cast of Felicity.
But most of my favorite moments from the festival didn’t have anything to do with the official screening or panel.
Without further adieu, here are my top 10 favorite things about the ATX Television Festival 2018 (aka Season 7).
10 – The Photo Ops
I’m not talking about snapping selfies with the celebs (though you know I love to do that). I’m talking about the legit photo ops that were set up by the festival. From the giant TV cutout inside the Stephen F. Austin to the I Love TV So Much mural at registration, everyone’s IG feed featured the most TV-riffic snapshots.
9 – The Hulu Badgeholder Lounge
So remember when I said there’s no VIP status? The Hulu lounge was open to all badge holders every day. Alcohol was complimentary for the majority of the day, there was a candy bar, free swag, and celebrities wandering in and out to take part in the festival’s official podcast, chat with reporters, or simple have a drink and cool off.
That’s Stephen Colletti and James Lafferty pictured below on the patio going live on James’ Instagram account. Bob Odenkirk is chatting with Debra Birnbaum from Variety. And I’m celebrating National Rosé Day with Austin’s own Infinite Monkey Theorem canned rosé.
8 – Watching James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti Enjoy Austin
Lafferty and Colletti seemed to be loving their time in the ATX. We crossed paths with them multiple times during the fest and even spent part of our Friday night at the same bar on Rainey Street (Lucille’s). It was my Coletti’s first time at the fest but Lafferty, like ATXgossip, attended the very first fest.
The boys screened their Indiegogo project called Everyone is Doing Great about two actors struggling to reclaim the level of success they previously experienced on a hit teen drama. In the Q&A following the pilot screening, Colletti described the series as, “The anti-Entourage.”
It’s nice to see the two back on screen together six years after One Tree Hill took its final bow. And speaking of OTH, they hinted at cast cameos in the works if they gain the funding to complete a full season of their series. Learn more about the Indiegogo campaign here.
7 – Getting Up Close and Personal with the Cast of Felicity
I wasn’t sure I’d get into the Felicity reunion Q&A since it was such a hot ticket item. So, following the Everyone is Doing Great screening, I booked it over to the Paramount. When I spotted the cast standing outside The Refinery, all concern about arriving to the theater early escaped my mind. At first, I thought it was just Scott Speedman standing there so I started to approach to chat him up. When I realized it was the entire cast waiting on their ride, I decided to slowly retreat. I did, however, snap a quick picture as I did so.
I did end up getting into the event, as did everyone else in line. The most exciting part of the Q&A was when the cast was asked about a re-boot. Greg Grunberg and Rob Benedict quickly exclaimed that they were in, and then noted that the three main cast members were awfully quiet. Speedman then said, “There’s a way to make it work.”
Scott Foley said that he has always said a re-boot would do an injustice to the characters and the show, however, he seemed to change his mind while in the midst of the reunion. “Being on this stage, looking at these faces, I would kind of love to work with you,” he said. “I missed you guys!”
Keri Russell, meanwhile, stayed completely mum.
6 – Nico Tortorella Performs “All Of It Is You”
Younger actor and now published poet Nico Tortorella had a busy weekend in Austin. On Friday, he took part in a panel called Breaking Down the Binary where, unfortunately, a man dressed as a robot interrupted the discussion making homophobic insults.
His poetry pop-up performance on Saturday night, however, went off without a hitch. Tortorella performed poems from his book, accompanied by well orchestrated music, sound effects, and a delivery style that was emotional and impactful.
On Sunday, he joined his fellow Younger cast mates for a screening of this week’s all-new episode of the TV Land series.
5 – Ray Liotta Doing the Freddy
When Ray Liotta took part in a conversation about his career, he told a story of auditioning for a musical at the University of Miami. He had prepared nothing. So when he was asked to sing and dance, he sang the only lines he knew to a song from Pippin and did the only dance he knew, which happened to be “the Freddy.” Now, I’m not exactly old enough to remember “the Freddy.” However, I AM old enough to remember Troop Beverly Hills. So, I about burst out laughing when he stood and actually did “the Freddy.”
There’s a brief clip of it in the video below.
4 – Kristin Chenoweth Goodness
Kristin Chenoweth attended in support of the NBC Summer comedy Trial & Error, a mockumentary style comedy in which she plays a woman on trial for murdering her husband.
At the Q&A following the screening of the first episode of season 2, I’m confident I was not alone in hoping that the Tony winner would break into song. Alas, she did not. She did however speak about making the transition from stage to screen.
Later, we caught the super sweet star on the red carpet after having her hair did by Jose Luis Salons. We weren’t the only ones staring adoringly at the tiny powerhouse as she gave interviews and posed for pics. Her proud mama was watching as well. Apparently, she lives in the ATX area.
3 – Freeform’s Female Empowerment
At the Evolution of Millennial Programming panel with the men and women behind some of Freeform’s most successful series’, we learned that every single show on the network has a female EP on staff. Additionally, EVP of Programming and Development Karey Burke gave us the quote of the festival.
When describing their programming, Burke said, “It’s cool shit for baller women.” Indeed it is.
2 – The Younger Cast Learning About the Food and Drink Options at the Alamo Drafthouse
As mentioned earlier, the cast of Younger was there for a screening of this week’s episode followed by a Q&A with nearly all of the cast. Due to her recently announced pregnancy, Texan Hillary Duff did not attend.
While walking on stage, Miriam Shore, who plays Diana on the show, took notice of the food and drink being delivered to audience members in the front row.
After asking people what they ordered she noticed someone eating the giant bowl of popcorn served at the Drafthouse and said, “I like you!”
Tortorella also exclaimed, “It’s like a full bar down there!”
Sounds like someone needs to take these guys to the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.
When the cast was asked about pranks on the set, Shore told the audience that Sutton Foster likes to say “balls” in the middle of scenes to make her laugh. Moments later, Foster interrupted her mid sentence by randomly saying, “Balls.”
This cast is just lovely and 30 minutes was not nearly enough time to fully experience their charm and wit.
1 – Taylor Kitsch Being Totally Texan
Well, there’s no surprise here. My favorite moment involves Tim Riggins.
Though Taylor Kitsch has never taken part in any of the Friday Night Lights related activities at the festival, he did finally make a formal appearance this year in support of the Paramount Network limited series Waco.
Sporting a stellar pair of cowboy boots, he was asked by the moderator what it was like celebrating the series in Texas.
“I love it. It’s home now. I’ve been here 12, 13 years now,” Kitsch said.
Motioning to the boots, he continued, “I have no choice with these. They wear me now.”
Spoken like a true, albeit transplanted Texan.
Were you at the ATX Television Festival? We want to know what were your favorite moments!